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Using Rollover deposits to reduce small package waste

Rollover deposits can encourage recycling without adding significant costs that can come from a traditional deposit system.

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(below is a link to a presentation book in PDF format on rollover deposits)

Rollover deposits PDF

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Rollover Deposits accomplishes the challenge goal by increasing the rates of recycling without having a significant financial impact on consumers. Deposits would be a one time expense with the packaging acting as a coupon to avoid incurring further deposits. Rollover deposits could be placed on a wide range of products having a dramatic increase in recycling rates reducing plastic wastes in the environment.

Applying rollover deposits to multiple products
 
Rollover deposits can be applied to wide variety of products causing minimal impact on consumers while giving a perceived value to product packaging increasing the rate of return for recycling. Since rollover deposits function much like coupons customers merely have to return the packaging to avoid paying deposits. Pay a deposit once on a potato chip bag and continue to rollover that same deposit 10, 20, or 30 years later. If you choose to throw away the chip bag then some one else has a chance to redeem your deposit increasing the chances that the plastic packaging is redeemed for recycling.
 
Over time the system can be expanded to include most packaging. Anything you buy on a regular basis can and should have a deposit so the packaging has a both real and perceived value. A perceived value that if you return the packaging for redemption or a real value if you return the item to receive the deposit back. The customer has the option to either return the packaging when buying a new item or receive the cash value. Any lost of destroyed packaging which isn’t redeemed can help provide funding for the program.

How it would work with soda machines
 
The end goal until there’s a replacement for petroleum based plastics has to be increasing recycling rates. Our current system it’s difficult to redeem deposits on cans and bottles. There needs to be a way to redeem cans and bottles at the point of sale including vending machines. One approach is a rollover deposit. An example would be the office vending machine, the first time you buy a soda you pay the deposit. The next time you buy a soda simply insert the empty bottle or can into the vending machine. A reader scans the container then deducts the deposit from your next purchase. Plastic bottles are shredded and cans are crushed reducing the volume of material. If you buy four sodas in a day you’d only pay the one deposit and if you have a bottle from the previous day you’d pay no deposit if you return the empty. We need an instant gratification element to recycling to increase rates of recycling. An office vending machine is far removed from a place to recycle containers so often they are discarded. Most offices have recycling bins but using them costs the consumer the deposit so some still throw the item in the trash. Also many places with vending machines like laundromats don’t have recycling bins. Adding in a redeeming system to vending machines could greatly reduce waste.

 Expanding the concept
 
By using rollover deposits other items like chip bags or even small packets can have a perceived value without adding significant costs. By placing the same deposit on everything a small packet can be used as a trade in on a chip bag or vice versa. The used packaging would act like coupons. At check out you simply hand over your empty packaging and the clerk deducts the deposits from your new purchases. The new items could be redeemed or simply turned in the next time items are purchased avoiding the cost of new deposits. In the current system people tend to save up items to return so it’s worth their time taking the items in for redemption creating multiple problems. The items must be stored in the home then the place they are redeemed must be able to handle dozens of items at a time from everyone redeeming items. Since the packaging would be used like coupons far less waste would be redeemed at a time creating a more predictable stream of items for recycling. Each family would end up paying a couple of dollars initially to start the process but so long as the old packaging is returned there would be no further deposits. It’s essentially a packaging exchange program using initial deposits as a hook.
 
The fact that the packages do have deposits on them any items discarded then have value so people wishing to make a few dollars would be encouraged to pick up and redeem the discarded items.
 
Rollover deposits can accomplish the goal of creating both a perceived value as well as an actual value while unlike traditional deposits having little financial impact on the consumer.

Issues and Solutions
 
The addition of these features would increase the cost of soda machines and potentially other packaging. Corporations will be unwilling to absorb the cost but tax breaks and other subsidies can help lessen resistance. Given the problems disposable containers are causing placing a requirement on new machines on a federal level could force the industry to adopt systems like vending machine collection systems. Even if 90% of containers with deposits are redeemed we still need to find ways of closing that final 10% or the amount of waste will continue to grow.
 
Another way to cover the costs is since cans would have their deposits rolled over the aluminum can be sold to offset some of the costs.
 
Cities and states may be able to cover a percentage of the costs through things like the cash made from unredeemed cans and bottles, right now its seen as a windfall but that cash should be going to recycling efforts. A modest tax on canned and bottled beverages could offset costs, $0.001 a can or bottle. A $1 would be raised for every 1,000 sold, a $1,000 for every million cans or bottles sold. If a million were sold in a given state a day it would free up $365,000 a year to support the upgrades without a noticeable increase to consumers. Microtaxes like this are effectively paid by the retailer but it's difficult for the costs to be passed on to the consmer since it would essentially be a little over one cent per case of soda. It has little impact on the seller and none on the consumer but with enough volume they can raise a great deal of money.
 
 
Expanding the idea to include other packaging would merely involve label changes to determine which items had deposits placed on them. The other change would be in store infrastructure. Stores would be required to collect and turn in packaging for recycling but the impact would be small on the stores and some one has to take on the responsibility. Stores taking back packaging is essential to ending the disposable economy that is burying us all in plastic waste.

Issues and Solutions
 
The addition of these features would increase the cost of soda machines and potentially other packaging. Corporations will be unwilling to absorb the cost but tax breaks and other subsidies can help lessen resistance. Given the problems disposable containers are causing placing a requirement on new machines on a federal level could force the industry to adopt systems like vending machine collection systems. Even if 90% of containers with deposits are redeemed we still need to find ways of closing that final 10% or the amount of waste will continue to grow.
 
Another way to cover the costs is since cans would have their deposits rolled over the aluminum can be sold to offset some of the costs.
 
Cities and states may be able to cover a percentage of the costs through things like the cash made from unredeemed cans and bottles, right now its seen as a windfall but that cash should be going to recycling efforts. A modest tax on canned and bottled beverages could offset costs, $0.001 a can or bottle. A $1 would be raised for every 1,000 sold, a $1,000 for every million cans or bottles sold. If a million were sold in a given state a day it would free up $365,000 a year to support the upgrades without a noticeable increase to consumers. Microtaxes like this are effectively paid by the retailer but it's difficult for the costs to be passed on to the consmer since it would essentially be a little over one cent per case of soda. It has little impact on the seller and none on the consumer but with enough volume they can raise a great deal of money.
 
 
Expanding the idea to include other packaging would merely involve label changes to determine which items had deposits placed on them. The other change would be in store infrastructure. Stores would be required to collect and turn in packaging for recycling but the impact would be small on the stores and some one has to take on the responsibility. Stores taking back packaging is essential to ending the disposable economy that is burying us all in plastic waste.

Make corporations responsible
 
Can you imagine a less popular bill to try and get through Congress? We have a long and cherished history of corporate irresponsibility in the US. Corporations are allowed to largely do as they wish with the land and air and walk away leaving it to the tax payer to clean up if it’s ever cleaned up at all. Congress fiercely defends corporations from responsibility for their actions but in the end this harms everyone and ultimately we all have to pay for the clean up. This provides an opening with Congressional conservatives, how this affects their taxes. Simply allowing the oceans to die is not an option. The oceans are the single largest source of oxygen on the planet and if the oceans die we die. Also being rich doesn’t protect you from mercury poisoning so are coal profits more important than your own children’s and grandchildren’s health? The rich can afford fish so they tend to actually eat more than the average person making them more exposed. That lovely piece of sushi has a disturbing amount of mercury in it and there is no safe limit. By pointing out the costs to Congress and how much it will soon raise their taxes attitudes can be changed.
 
Cities face massive problems with waste disposal. All corporations that produce products should have plans in place for handling post consumer waste. They would be given three options, first would be biodegradable packaging. Ultimately this is the future and the only thing holding it back is that the packaging will cost a few cents more on each product. A couple of percentage points are killing the planet. Even passing the costs along to consumers is considered unacceptable because that money is seen as lost profits and even reducing potential profits is seen as a sin. If it’s cheaper to make the packaging biodegradable then that’s what the companies will do so making nondegradable packaging must be made more expensive through a carbon tax like plastic tax. The second option is to put in place a plan to make recycling easier and more desirable to the general public. Deposits or a lottery system like I proposed in another presentation would work but deposits can be an additional burden on the poor so simply putting deposits on products is unlikely to be popular. The third option is paying into a general fund that would coordinate efforts for clean up and recycling. A new government agency that is focused on these tasks would provide jobs and reduce waste. If every corporation on the planet that polluted or produced products that contributed to plastic pollution contributed hundreds of billions a year could be raised and targeted at both local and global problems. The amount corporations contributed would be tied to the amount of pollution their products produced. Now that money tends to go into advertising to convince us they aren’t polluting where as it should be going to reducing actual pollution. The funds already exist they are merely being spent on spin instead of solving the problems.

How the Funds Would Be Used
 
Education is the key. Present rollover deposits as a new expense and people will turn on it without giving it a chance. People need to be educated on the fact it can reduce plastic wastes dramatically with little expense. Subsidies are an option to avoid extra expenses for the poor. Giving out coupons instead of requiring deposits would be an option but would need government or corporate backing. If they choose to redeem packaging using the coupons they would never face additional charges but if they redeem the packaging and take the cash they would then face charges. The whole concept is not to make things more expensive but to create a perceived value. Anyone on government assistance could also receive a yearly quota of coupons. Working out this system and selling the concept to federal and local governments as well as corporations would be a major use for the grant money. Everyone involved needs to be educated on how cheaply the system can be established and what a dramatic impact it could have on plastic waste. Reducing waste saves us all money in the long run through cheaper disposal fees and plastic clean up expenses which we will all face in the very near future. Do we spend millions now creating sustainable recycling systems or pay tens of billion or more likely hundreds of billions cleaning the mess up?
 
A proof of concept vending machine could be made by retrofitting an existing machine so the collection system was on the side rather than under the dispenser part. The difficult part is having the scanning equipment installed and tying in the coin dispenser so the amount of the deposit could be deducted. Due to the complications focusing on meeting with corporate sponsors may be the best approach. The biggest hurdle is changing the mindset from "collection for recycling isn’t our problem" to a system where it’s considered part of the process.
 
Another approach that would be part of the solution is to lobby government regulators to start to require companies to be responsible for the waste their products generate. Ultimately this is the only solution to the problem. Until there’s regulations in place to force corporations to be responsible they’ll pursue the most profitable approach which is everything is disposable and not our problem. When dealing with their mess is cheaper than ignoring it then solutions will be adopted.

Idea Title

Rollover deposits

Company / Organization Name

I'm an individual designer who has worked in the entertainment industry since 1979. I also have a background in computer graphics.

Where are you / your team located?

USA

How does this Idea redesign unrecyclable small format plastic items that often end up as waste?

By adding a perceived value the rate of recycling can be increased without increasing costs to consumer. By using an initial deposit this becomes a hook to encourage recycling without ongoing costs to consumers.

Which use cases does your Idea apply to?

Small package wastes would have an attached value so even discarded packaging would be collected and brought in for redemption removing it from the environment with minimal cost to consumers.

In what geographical context or area does your Idea plan to operate / solve?

North America initially but variations on the theme can be implemented almost anywhere.

How do you envision scaling up your Idea?

A small town could adopt the idea to reduce waste going into their local landfill and streets. The idea can be expanded to an entire state and eventually on a federal level. The costs would be minimal and can be folded into existing recycling systems. The benefits would be huge in the form of reduced trash as well as plastic released into the environment. Any funding can be covered by the small percentage of items not redeemed. Those unused funds can go to support the system.

At what stage of development is your Idea?

  • Research & Early Testing: You are exploring an idea, gathering inspiration and information needed to test it with real users.

Please describe how becoming a Top Idea and working with the Think Beyond Plastics Accelerator Program will help to accelerate your solution.

Selling the idea to state and local and eventually the federal government would be critical. The problem to overcome is avoiding the perception that it's just a new tax or more government over reach. The idea must be presented as having a huge benefit not just in the environment but in reducing the costs of municipal wastes. Many people don't care about the environmental issues but they do care about saving money. Getting a localized test approved would be a success.

Please describe from where your Idea emerged

It came from a desire to find a solution that could mimic the success of high deposits without the ongoing burden of cost to people that have a hard time redeeming the items. If used packaging was perceived as the same as coupons that saved people money more people are likely to redeem items for recycling.

Tell us about your work experience

I've worked in the film industry for 37 year and was an art director with Disney. My experience includes everything from TV commercials to theme park design.

Please describe your legal and organizational structure

An individual but will likely form an LLC for the grant if I receive it.

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